How to Attract Scarlet Tanagers: Expert Tips and Techniques

Scarlet Tanagers are striking songbirds known for their vibrant red and black coloring, making them a sought-after sight for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. These birds primarily reside in mature forests and can be a bit elusive, which is why attracting them to your backyard can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Understanding the needs and preferences of Scarlet Tanagers will greatly improve your chances of successfully making your yard a haven for these beautiful songbirds.

Habitat preferences play a significant role in attracting Scarlet Tanagers. By creating a tanager-friendly yard that focuses on providing water, shelter, and food sources such as insects and fruits, you are more likely to draw in these colorful visitors. Additionally, ensuring a safe environment by taking measures against predators and supporting the life cycle of these birds with appropriate nesting sites can further your chances of making your yard a hotspot for Scarlet Tanagers. Plant diversity is also essential, as it encourages the presence of insects and fruits that form a substantial part of the tanager’s diet.

Key Takeaways

  • A tanager-friendly yard can be created by providing water, food, and shelter specific to the needs of Scarlet Tanagers.
  • Ensuring a safe environment by taking measures against predators and supporting the bird’s life cycle is crucial for attracting these beautiful birds.
  • Plant diversity, which encourages insect and fruit presence, is an important factor in making your yard a haven for Scarlet Tanagers.

Overview of Scarlet Tanagers

  • Scarlet Tanagers are a striking species of songbird known for their vibrant colors and captivating songs. The males are particularly easy to identify due to their brilliant red plumage and contrasting black wings. Females, on the other hand, have a more subtle olive-yellow coloration, making them less noticeable than their male counterparts.
  • This species inhabits deciduous forests across North America, particularly during the summer months. They prefer large trees such as oak, maple, beech, and eastern hemlock for both nesting and foraging. It’s not uncommon for Scarlet Tanagers to remain hidden in the leafy upper branches as they search for insects and fruit to eat.
  • Their musical songs are another distinctive feature of this species. Males sing a melodic and somewhat raspy tune to establish their territory and attract a mate. Interestingly, the song of the Scarlet Tanager bears some resemblance to that of the Summer Tanager and Western Tanager, although each species has its unique variations.

Read Next: How to Attract Summer Tanagers

Habitat Preferences

Scarlet tanagers are stunning birds that often make their homes in varied environments. To attract these beautiful creatures, understanding their habitat preferences can be invaluable. This section focuses on backyard habitats, forest environments, and the types of trees that suit these birds we love.

Backyard Habitats

A well-prepared backyard can serve as a haven for scarlet tanagers. Providing specific trees and plants can make your property more attractive to them. Some important factors to consider:

  • Native trees: Choose species indigenous to your area, preferably ones that produce fruit or host insects for the tanagers to feed on. Examples include oak, beech, hemlock, and maple trees. These trees are also suitable for nesting.
  • Shrubs and plants: Planting bushes like elderberry and red mulberry can entice scarlet tanagers, as they are drawn by their fruit. Additionally, having insect-friendly plants can ensure a food source for these birds.
  • Water sources: A birdbath or a shallow stream can be a valuable addition to your backyard. These water sources offer a spot for tanagers to drink and bathe.

Forest Environments

Scarlet tanagers are partial to areas with dense forests, abundant in deciduous or mixed woodland. These birds often seek out tall, mature trees with ample space for nesting and feeding. The following types of trees can create a suitable forest habitat for tanagers:

  • Oak: Offering insects and nesting sites, oak trees are a popular choice among tanagers.
  • Pine: Although primarily associated with coniferous forests, pines can also attract tanagers due to their height and food sources.
  • Willow, birch, and elm: These deciduous trees have a mix of insects for tanagers to feed on and potential nesting spots.
  • Cottonwood, ash, and hickory: Tanagers may also be drawn to these trees, as they offer abundant insect populations and nesting areas.

Creating the ideal habitat for scarlet tanagers may require a mix of backyard elements and suitable forestry. By combining these environments and providing essential resources, you increase your chances of attracting these splendid birds and offering them a space they can thrive in.

Attracting Scarlet Tanagers with Food

Offering Natural Food Sources

Scarlet Tanagers are primarily insect eaters with a fondness for a variety of berries and fruits as well. They enjoy feasting on caterpillars, beetles, and other insects, making them excellent pest controllers for any garden or yard. To attract Scarlet Tanagers to your yard, try planting native fruit-producing shrubs and trees such as elder, wild cherry, wild blueberry, wild grape, and red mulberry1. These natural food sources will not only entice the tanagers but also provide shelter and nesting opportunities for them.

Some other fruits and berries that tanagers are particularly drawn to include raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, huckleberries, and chokeberries. The easy access to these fruits and insects gives the Scarlet Tanagers a reliable source of food and a reason to visit, and possibly nest, in your yard.

Setting Up Bird Feeders

In addition to natural food sources, you can set up bird feeders to provide supplemental nourishment to these beautiful birds. First, choose bright-colored feeders since they are more attractive to tanagers2. Place the feeders at a height that is atop trees or shrubs, as they prefer perching and feeding at such spots3.

When it comes to selecting the right food to place in bird feeders, Scarlet Tanagers love sunflower seeds, suet, mealworms, grape jelly, and even slices of oranges4. These treats can be especially appealing during spring migration, when the birds might need an extra energy boost.

Here are some common foods for attracting Scarlet Tanagers to bird feeders:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Suet
  • Mealworms
  • Grape jelly
  • Cherries
  • Oranges

Remember to keep your bird feeders clean and filled with fresh food to ensure that the tanagers keep coming back to your yard. Keeping a clean feeder also helps prevent the spread of diseases among birds visiting your feeders5.

Overall, providing a diverse array of natural food sources and supplementing with bird feeders can help attract Scarlet Tanagers to your yard. Supporting their diet with the right mix of insects, berries, fruits, seeds, and other treats like grape jelly will not only entice them to visit but also encourage them to call your yard their home.

Providing Water and Shelter

Birdbaths and Water Sources

Scarlet Tanagers are primarily attracted to areas with plenty of water. One of the most effective ways to attract them to your backyard is by providing a birdbath or other water sources. These birds need to drink frequently, and water sources are irresistible to them. Make sure to choose a bright-colored birdbath and place it in a visible spot for the best results.

Nesting and Shelter Requirements

For shelter, Scarlet Tanagers prefer nesting in large deciduous trees like oak, maple, beech, and eastern hemlock. To create a suitable environment for these birds, consider enhancing your yard with native trees and shrubs that produce berries such as red mulberry. This will not only provide a nesting area but also a food source.

Planting vines and flowers can also help attract Tanagers and establish a welcoming habitat. Some recommended plants include sweet autumn clematis, honeysuckle, goldenrod, and Virginia creeper. These plants provide both cover and food sources like insects, which are a significant part of the Scarlet Tanager’s diet.

In addition to native trees and plants, you can also provide birdhouses and other shelter options. However, it’s essential to make your yard insect-friendly since insects are a crucial food source for these birds.

By providing water, shelter, and an insect-friendly environment, you increase the likelihood of attracting beautiful and elusive Scarlet Tanagers to your backyard.

Ensuring a Safe Environment

To successfully attract scarlet tanagers and provide a welcoming environment for them and other birds like orioles, grosbeaks, cardinals, and buntings, it’s essential to create a safe haven in your yard. This includes minimizing window collisions and avoiding predators.

Minimizing Window Collisions

Window collisions are a common cause of bird fatalities. Birds often perceive windows as open space, leading to accidents. To reduce the risk of collisions, consider the following steps:

  • Place bird feeders and bird baths within 3 feet of windows or far away (30 feet or more), to decrease the likelihood of high-speed crashes.
  • Use window decals, stickers, or tape to break up the reflection of glass, making it more apparent to birds.
  • Install window screens, which can help reduce the force of impact, providing an additional layer of protection for birds.
  • In extreme weather, consider closing curtains or blinds to minimize glass reflection.

Avoiding Predators

Predators pose a significant threat to birds like scarlet tanagers. Cats, in particular, are notorious for preying on local bird populations. To protect your feathered visitors, follow these strategies:

  • Keep pet cats indoor or in an enclosed outdoor area, like a catio, to prevent them from harming birds.
  • Install a hopper or ground feeder that is elevated and away from areas where cats can hide and ambush birds, such as bushes or tall grass.
  • Encourage native bird-friendly plants, which can provide valuable cover and protection for birds like tanagers, cardinals, and buntings.
  • Avoid using pesticides, as they can harm beneficial insects that birds rely on for food, and indirectly affect the bird population.

By implementing these measures, you’ll create a safer environment for scarlet tanagers and other birds, increasing the chances of them visiting and thriving in your yard.

Supporting Their Life Cycle

Scarlet tanagers are fascinating birds that go through various stages in their life cycle. As a bird enthusiast, it’s essential to understand their breeding and nesting behaviors, as well as their migration patterns, to support and attract them effectively. Let’s dive into these aspects of their lives.

Breeding and Nesting Behavior

During spring and summer months, scarlet tanagers are busy with their mating and nesting activities. They’re known for their vibrant red plumage and captivating singing, which play a significant role in their courtship rituals. Nesting habitat preferences for these birds include large deciduous trees, like oaks, maples, beeches, and eastern hemlocks, where they choose concealed spots to build their nests.

Their diet consists of a variety of insects such as moths, wasps, beetles, bees, and caterpillars, which are also essential for their nesting material. Again, it’s important to keep the area around the nesting site insect-friendly, as ample food sources will encourage them to breed and nest in your backyard. Planting native trees and shrubs that produce berries can also attract these beautiful birds as they provide additional food sources.

Migration Patterns

Understanding the migration patterns of the scarlet tanager is key to attracting and supporting their life cycle. As migratory birds, they travel from North America to South America and vice versa during different seasons. In the fall, they begin their journey south, while their return to North America takes place in spring.

To attract scarlet tanagers during these migration periods, it’s crucial to create the right environment for them in your backyard. Setting up birdbaths, fruit feeders, and platform feeders with mealworms, cut fruits, or berries can help support their dietary needs and attract them. In addition, maintaining a mature forest habitat, with plenty of large deciduous trees, will encourage scarlet tanagers to visit your yard during their migration.

Identifying and Enjoying Scarlet Tanagers

Scarlet Tanagers are medium-sized songbirds that are a delight to spot in the eastern forests during the summer. Males are remarkably eye-catching, with bright red bodies offset by jet-black wings and tail. Their gray beaks and black eyes give them a distinctive look. Females, on the other hand, have a yellowish-green color with dark wings, making them slightly harder to spot 1.

Scarlet Tanagers are migratory birds, so if you’re looking to spot them in your backyard, you should be familiar with their migratory schedule and when they’ll be visiting your area4. In addition, observing and enjoying the presence of these birds requires patience and persistence as they tend to stay high in the forest canopy.

To make your experience more enjoyable, here are a few confident and knowledgeable tips:

  • Learn their rich, burry songs as this can help you locate the birds by their vocalizations.
  • Use binoculars or a spotting scope to get a clear view of these stunning birds from a distance.
  • Be respectful of their natural habitat; avoid disturbing the birds or their nesting areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of food attracts scarlet tanagers?

Scarlet tanagers are mostly insectivorous, feeding on various insects such as caterpillars, moths, beetles, and wasps. However, they also enjoy berries and fruits, like mulberries, elderberries, and sumac. Offering orange halves can attract scarlet tanagers as well as other fruit-loving birds.

Which bird feeders are best for scarlet tanagers?

Since scarlet tanagers enjoy fruits and berries, platform or tray feeders with fruits, especially orange halves, and berries can be an excellent option. Make sure to regularly clean the feeder to avoid mold growth and maintain proper hygiene.

Do scarlet tanagers prefer specific types of trees or plants?

Yes, scarlet tanagers are primarily found in mature deciduous forests and prefer oak trees. They also inhabit forests with a mix of tall trees and shrubs. Planting native fruit-producing plants like mulberries, elderberries, and sumac can also make your yard more attractive to these bright birds.

What is the ideal habitat for scarlet tanagers?

Scarlet tanagers thrive in mature deciduous forests with abundant canopy cover and suitable nesting locations. They prefer large, continuous forests with tall trees and undergrowth, which provide nesting sites and ample food. They are migratory birds, so understanding their migratory patterns can help you attract them to your backyard.

Do scarlet tanagers share the same environment preferences as indigo buntings?

Scarlet tanagers and indigo buntings have some similarities in their environmental preferences. Both are found in forests with mature trees and shrubs. However, indigo buntings may also inhabit more open areas like old fields, woodland edges, and hedgerows.

How can I create a scarlet tanager-friendly yard?

To create a scarlet tanager-friendly yard, consider the following steps:

  1. Plant tall, native trees such as oaks to provide nesting sites.
  2. Include a mix of fruit-producing plants like mulberries, elderberries, and sumac to offer a food source.
  3. Provide clean water sources with a birdbath for drinking and bathing.
  4. Use platform or tray feeders with fresh fruits, especially orange halves, to attract them.
  5. Maintain a pesticide-free environment, as these birds feed on insects and it’s crucial to protect their natural food source.


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